Thursday, July 04, 2013


I continue with my Sondheimer stories.

18. For many years  I didn't know what my father did for money. He and my Mother had separate financial lives.  She fed and clothed us with income from her grocery store.. On one occasion she purchased lumber from his sawmill to improve our house.

  He would be gone for long periods and I didn't know where.  But when I was about 10 he took me on a trip to Oklahoma in a cargo van. In that state he took a series of back roads to a very remote shack, alone on the prairie. Two guys met us and unloaded the van.  I saw that it was liquor being unloaded---many cases of it.  He was bootlegging alcohol into a dry state.  Some time later he was caught, fined heavily and lost his citizenship for a few years.

He had two bars in Sondheimer---each with a colored and a white side---didn't work in either of them---hired people.

He operated a sawmill for some years---in the summertime---and built rent houses all around Sondheimer---perhaps 8 of them.

He leased an entire Island which the Missisippi river created by changing its course and leaving an oxbow lake.  Then he put cattle on it and left them for a year.  Then we would round them up and sell the survivors and their calves.  He bought a LST landing craft after the war to transport them across the river.

He noticed that sick and injured cattle were super cheap at auction---so he began to buy truckloads of them.  I remember being embarrassed as those pathetic creatures were unloaded from the trucks.  We loaded them in the landing craft and took them to the island.  Those that survived were marketable---and many had calves.

One year there was a drought in Texas and he sent a fleet of trucks to buy hundreds of distressed sheep at give-a-way prices.  We put them on the Island and let them feed on the willows along the river.  Many died but enough survived to have a roundup. On the bank of the river he built corrals and hired some Australian sheep men to shear them.

He tried to make a hunting club on the Island but had trouble with the legalities.

He built a country Bar just outside a dry parish (West Carroll) to service those who wanted to drink.

He leased a huge nightclub outside lake Providence---hired a band. (The Cotton Club)
I've forgotten what happened to that enterprise.

He bought two used draglines and began to dig ditches for the surrounding parishes.
He bought two Caterpillars and cleared land.

He won the contract for the waste food from Ft Gordon, Ga---bought a piece of local land and started a pig farm.

He won the contract to remove used oil and fuel from another army base in La and sold it to re-refiners.

He built a service station in Sondheimer---sold tires etc.

He bought the Monticello School building---demolished it-hired people to clean the bricks---used them to build his service station--sold some.

Got fascinated with army surplus---was his last great passion----for 20 years.  Made a decent amount of money----Left a bit of it to me.

And many other enterprises---was elected Police Juror (county commissioner) for a term.
 His chief financial backer was a Chinese businessman from Tallulah named George Wall.  Once I watched as he chided my father (seeking another loan)---saying: "Roy, you are all over the map---Why don't you find a business you like and stick with it".

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I'm proud of my father!  For a lifetime---he did things that interested him----never got rich---but never got bored--- Said he chose Sondheimer because he'd rather be a big fish in a small pond.----told me not to leave home without money in my pocket and not to be an ingrate---said he made a life for himself and recommended that I do the same.


Rob said...

Lost his citizenship for a while? I'd never heard of that before.

Randy said...

Rob: Perhaps I misspoke---what he lost was the right to run for office for some years after being convicted of bootlegging. I remember an embarrassing moment in 9th grade civics class when reference was made to a candidate being disqualified from running and everyone knew it was my father.

Linda Sand said...

Wow! What lesson in doing what you enjoy. I can see how he was never bored--all those challenges he chose to face.

Rojo said...

That is what I call The great American dream. i just cant wrap my mind around going to the same job for 20-30-40 years for a gold plated watch at retirement and a small pension.